BBC creates a (Mr) Stink in 3D

Mr Stink

If you're among those with a 3D TV, Hugh Bonneville's tramp may be wafting into your living room this Christmas.

He plays the eponymous character in BBC One's adaptation of the children's book Mr Stink, written by comedian David Walliams, who also appears as the prime minister.

Other major shows - the Olympic ceremonies, Wimbledon final and Strictly Come Dancing - have already been shown in 3D since the BBC started their two-year trial in June 2011.

But Mr Stink is the first fictional 3D show on the BBC, chosen as a "really good test case" for the innovation, according to Kim Shillinglaw who is leading the trial.

She says the project's purpose is to test 3D's application across a range of genres but she maintains that it suits some shows, not all.

Discussions with the BBC Comedy unit led to the option of Mr Stink, even before it had been finalised as a commission.

Shillinglaw says its target family audience made it an "interesting candidate".

"There's a sort of lovely, almost cartoon-like sense where this is a piece exploring the imagination of a child," she adds.

Sheridan Smith Sheridan Smith has said she will buy a 3D TV for her parents to watch Mr Stink

"There were opportunities to enhance that world of imagination for a slightly lonely girl by using 3D to bring that to life, for instance, the smell coming off Mr Stink…The world is an alienating place to this girl and 3D can make it look a bit stranger, a bit more highly coloured."

From a financial view, with an eye on BBC working models in the future, Shillinglaw and her colleagues thought Mr Stink could show "how far we can push efficiency around 3D/2D simultaneous production".

While some 3D productions are filmed in both 2D and 3D across the industry, the BBC comedy was filmed entirely in 3D, from which a 2D version has been made.

Small 3D audience

Bigger, bulkier and slower than their 2D sisters, 3D cameras are also more expensive but costs are falling - Shillinglaw says the in-house Mr Stink team "achieved the 3D version more efficiently than anything else we've done".

But she doesn't fudge the issue that the number of viewers with 3D-enabled TVs is "very small".

Even Sheridan Smith, who appears in the show as a wannabe politician, has spoken about getting a 3D TV for her parents so they can watch the show together in its full glory.

The show will also be available on iPlayer in 3D for those with enabled TV sets, which makes it a "really interesting avenue of research" according to Shillinglaw. User stats will no doubt be monitored as the BBC's trial seeks to find what works with viewers and, just as importantly, what doesn't.

Usain Bolt Usain Bolt's 100m triumph was available in 3D during the Olympics

Events and some natural history output are seen as natural contenders for 3D coverage, with the BBC showing new series Hidden Kingdom in 3D later next year.

Sky are investing heavily in 3D but the BBC isn't looking to create a 3D service in the near future - instead output will be shown on the BBC HD channels.

"The purpose of the trial was not to secure more money for 3D," says Shillinglaw. "It was to acknowledge that there was an embryonic new technology out there…and 3D is just one way which some demographics and audiences may want to obtain in the future."

Despite leading the trial, Shillinglaw admits to being "very agnostic" about the technology but believes the BBC, with its reputation for innovation, should have the information to make decisions for when 3D viewing becomes more popular, either through internet-connected TVs (IPTV) or forthcoming glasses-free 3D sets.

"The UK is a centre of excellence for 3D activity in feature films and gaming but all that is sitting outside the BBC, so it's been very valuable to give pockets of in-house production that expertise."

  • Mr Stink, Sunday 23 December, 6.30pm, BBC One and BBC One HD
  • More information on how to get 3D here

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